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Graft: Court rejects EFCC’s bid to burnish witness’ testimony

 By Ise-Oluwa Ige

ABUJA —  An Abuja High Court sitting at Gudu yesterday refused serial attempts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to correct contradictions in the evidence of its star prosecution witness, testifying in the trial of former Taraba State Governor, Jolly Nyame.

Nyame is facing criminal trial over allegations touching on stealing, criminal breach of trust, diversion of public funds, bribery and misappropriation of funds belonging to the state.

He is accused of stealing over N5.5 billion belonging to the state treasury.

The court said the attempt by EFCC to burnish the testimony of its witness was needless because there were so many of such contradictions.

For instance, the star Prosecution Witness, Usman Abubakar Suleiman, had, during his evidence-in-chief, told the court that the Taraba State government did not comply with the Public Procurement Act, PPA, in the award of a N225 million contract for the rehabilitation of water treatment project to a firm, Alusab International Nigeria, during the tenure of Jolly Nyame.

But under cross examination by Nyame’s legal team led by Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, Suleiman contradicted himself by testifying that the PPA and due process were complied with in awarding the said contract to Alusab International Nigeria.

Court overrules EFCC
However, EFCC’s counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, had tried to repair the damage done by his witness’ inconsistent evidence, but was overruled on account that he would be overreaching the defence mounted by the accused person’s counsel.

Even when Fagbemi conceded some grounds for Jacobs to re-present his questions to the witness under re-examination, the witness did not change his testimony, to the amusement of the lawyers, reporters and other observers in court.

The trial Judge, Adebukola Bamjoko had earlier noted that there were several inconsistencies in the evidence of the witness which could not be remedied by Jacobs’ attempt to re-open the evidence of his witness.

The witness also caused a stir when the defence team confronted with Exhibit F, which is the statement he purportedly made to the EFCC on November 22, 2006.

He told the court that while the said statement was made on November 22, 2006 to EFCC, the Investigating Police Officer, IPO, one Michael, who endorsed it, did so on November 21, 2006, a day before it was authored.

Suleiman also admitted that all his four statements to the EFCC marked Exhibit D, E, F and G which he made, according to him, “when the matter was fresh in his mind,” did not support his oral evidence that he gave N100 million to the then Finance Commissioner in the state on behalf of Nyame.

The former Taraba State chief executive is accused of stealing over N5.5 billion belonging to the state treasury.


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